Residents opposed to a Chick-fil-A drive-thru breathed a sigh of relief last week after the Mountain View City Council overturned an approval allowing the fast-food chain to establish a drive-thru site on El Camino Real.
The council’s 4-2 vote Oct. 16 (Mayor Mike Kasperzak abstained) may extinguish the popular chicken chain’s interest in the Sizzler restaurant site at 1962 El Camino Real, because the drive-thru was key to locating a restaurant at the property.
Councilmembers overturned a conditional use permit (CUP) for the drive-thru, approved last July by zoning administrator Peter Gilli. Their decision came after lengthy discussion and a long line of speakers both for and against the drive-thru.
Neighbors opposed to the drive-thru cited concerns about air quality, safety, traffic congestion and noise. Opponents include Los Altos residents along Jardin Drive and Clark Avenue, across El Camino from the site, as well as apartment dwellers at the rear of the property.
“Of course, we’re very pleased with the outcome of the vote, as it helps to establish precedents for future drive-thru CUP decisions,” said drive-thru opponent Bruce England. “That is, along with previous decisions related to KFC at Mariposa Avenue and El Camino, an expansion including a drive-thru car wash for a Shell station at Shoreline Boulevard and El Camino, we believe that that city is increasingly in an excellent position to consider revisions to the current approval guidelines for drive-thru CUPs. This was the background basis for our appeal and ultimately what we hope to see happen.”
Councilmembers Laura Macias, Jac Siegel, Margaret Abe-Koga and Ronit Bryant rejected the drive-thru, which would have accommodated a line of up to 11 vehicles.
“It seems like too much happening in a small space,” Abe-Koga said.
But Councilman Tom Means, who, with John Inks, supported the drive-thru, said the reasons to reject it were too subjective and that the zoning administrator ruled on established city guidelines.
“As you look at El Camino, you see a lot of empty lots,” Means observed, adding that lots are shallow and are of limited interest to prospective businesses. “I also look at the alternative. It could be worse.”
Traffic was the primary concern among nearby residents. Some said students from Los Altos High School would make Chick-fil-A a lunchtime destination and travel through Los Altos neighborhood streets to get there.
“Note that the only way back into the Eastend and Jardin neighborhoods (and to Los Altos High School) from the proposed (restaurant) exit is a right turn on El Camino Real and then left onto Distel,” said Jardin resident Stephen Friedman of Los Altos.
Another concern for Friedman and his neighbors is a Caltrans plan to install a traffic light at Clark Drive and El Camino Real, a move, he said, that would counteract the traffic-calming measures already established on Clark. The traffic light, a response to 14 recorded accidents at the intersection over the past five years, was not part of the discussion at last week’s council meeting.